I have heard several messages recently about letting the past go and moving toward the future.  I am a listener.  I am often straining to hear what the Lord is saying; working to keep my heart soft, pliable, broken in His capable hands.  With all my heart, I want to hear what He is saying.

Something inside me says that this message is just too simplified; that something is missing.  There is some truth to it.  We don’t want to get stuck in unforgiveness or bitterness. We don’t want to allow our past to hold us back from reaching our potential future,

BUT there are things we need to learn while in
the midst of our trials that will prepare us for our future:

So don’t try to
get out of anything
Let it do its work
so you will become mature
and well developed,
not deficient in any way.
James 1:4

And although the moment in time that I lost Joel is in the past, the truth of the present is that I am still very much in the midst of the trial of learning to live without him.  He was my baby for 20  years… the pain of missing him doesn’t disappear overnight.  I am not sure it ever really goes away.

“The act of living is different all through.  Her absence is like the sky, spread all over everything.”  C.S. Lewis.

Philippians 3:13-14 is a great verse that is often misquoted:

”But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is talking about forgetting the self-accomplishments that he took so much pride in before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. He doesn’t forget his suffering or trials.  He often recounts them, uses them to encourage the saints, and even boasts of them:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This verse keeps coming to my mind:

My soul is weary
with sorrow;
strengthen me
according to Your Word.
Keep me from
lying to myself;
be gracious and
teach me Your ways.
Psalm 119:28-9

The struggle between lying to myself (telling myself that I am okay), forcing myself forward in my own strength and trusting God to heal me and move me forward in His perfect timing and strength is amplified by the message of “let the past go.”

The Holy Spirit’s strong word to me has been, “REST.”  It takes great perseverance to give it all to Him, to rest, to hear the truth… to understand the truth… to abide in His ways.

When I hear new grieving parents tell their stories of child loss, I re-live mine.  I feel the need to remember; not to stay stuck, but to remember.  I am good at forgetting.  I like living in my dream world where no one does anything wrong and no one gets hurt; where pain is a faint memory and there is only good to come.

This has been different.  Forgetting this loss leaves me open to being ambushed by remembering.  The truth of the present pain rushes in and is overwhelming and tormenting.  The little control I’ve found has been in staying steadily in the pain (not getting out prematurely).  I am not always successful.  I have fallen into my wishful forgetting.  Ambushes are hard taskmasters.

He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
The thought of my suffering
and hopelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
the unfailing love of the Lord never ends!
By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.
Lamentations 3:13, 19-22

From the beginning, I knew that this was something I didn’t want to allow myself to forget.  Just coming out of denial has been so much work; not something I was able to control; a work I had to do in God’s timing and strength.  I am not certain I’ve even completely come out of it.

Remembering while dreaming has taken even longer.  Over a year of having to remember afresh the horrible truth when I woke every morning to even now teaching myself to recognize and seize the moments I get to hold Joel in my dreams; choosing to find joy in the midst of my nightmares.

The fight to remember who Joel was… what he was like… what he would say.. what he would do… has been the hardest.  The pain of losing him is so great that it has blocked out and weighed down the joy of remembering him. The good memories come floating by in dark bits and pieces.  I have only tiny scattered pieces in my possession.  I miss him so much… his sweet presence, his laughter, his ways.

If I allow myself to forget all I’ve been through, I won’t be useful to those whose loss is fresh. I have forgotten so many other things; allowed myself to become useless in other ways to the hurting and the broken.  This I don’t want to forget.  I want to know God’s ways; to understand the path we need to take between the horrible grief to living by God’s grace and strength.

I want to remember the “awful time” of grief and the path to hope in the unfailing love of the Lord that never ends.  I want to remember the truth of my brokenness and the strength God is giving me in the midst of it.  I want to become “mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.”  I want to be equipped and ready to comfort others with the comfort that I have received.  I want to remember and to learn while daring to hope.